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A healthy future for our water – a key test for Territory candidates this Federal Election

Joint Media Release  l  Arid Lands Environment Centre and the Environment Centre NT 


Arid Lands Environment Centre (ALEC) and the Environment Centre NT (ECNT), are calling on all candidates in the upcoming Federal Election to tell Territorians how they will safeguard the future of one of the Northern Territory’s most valuable assets - water.

Environment Centre NT co-director Kirsty Howey said water issues are more important than ever for Territorians right across the NT this election.

“There’s never been more pressure on our precious water.  Thirsty industries such as fracking, plastics manufacturing in Darwin Harbour, and irrigated agriculture such as cotton are zeroing in on the Territory, and all risk leaving us without the water we need in the future,” she said.

“The Environmental Defenders Office recently diagnosed our water laws as amongst the worst in the country. These flaws have meant that management of the Northern Territory’s water has been a significant political issue for many years, and Territory politicians show few signs of cleaning it up. That’s why we need federal political candidates to step up and take leadership on this vitally important issue.”

Concern over management of water resources have regularly punctuated the news cycle, including:

  • the grant of a controversial water licence at Stylo Station to a political candidate,
  • an independent review into water licensing in the Northern Territory which found significant flaws in the Northern Territory’s water licensing system;
  • the revelation that there are no regulatory protections for drinking water in remote communities of the Northern Territory;
  • the unsustainable overallocation of aquifers in the Darwin rural area;
  • the unprecedented overturning of a 10 billion litre per annum groundwater licence at Larrimah;
  • controversy over the circumstances surrounding the grant of the largest groundwater extraction licence in Northern Territory history, at Singleton Station.

“Recent controversies have eroded trust in the government's management of our most precious resource. Given the challenges of climate change and the expansion of agricultural development in Australia’s North, it is more important than ever that Territorians have trust and confidence in how our water resources are managed - including how federal candidates approach these issues.”

“This starts by listening to Territorians before making decisions that affect them, particularly Aboriginal communities and those that rely on our natural waterways for their livelihoods.”

Arid Lands Environment Centre General Manager, Jade Kudrenko, said Territorians see water as a key issue for candidates this election.

“Local communities are at the forefront of fighting for water justice and water rights and are standing up against big plans which are being cooked up in far-flung boardrooms and political offices in Canberra by people who don’t understand what it’s like to live in the Territory.”

“Whether it’s recharging deep in aquifers in Central Australia, giving life to floodplains or flowing down our iconic rivers, Territorians value water and want representatives to do more to secure its future – for all of us and our environment.”

Palmertson resident (Solomon electorate), Bodil Conroy, said:

“Water in the Territory is too important to risk. Our world-renowned Tourism relies on the pristine rivers and clean waters for a multitude of reasons, including wildlife habitat for species unique to the Territory.

“Strong water laws are required to protect our groundwater and rivers for future generations. It’s important that whoever is elected in May is a strong voice for water protection in the Northern Territory.”

ALEC and ECNT are asking all candidates in the upcoming federal election to:

  • Support the expansion of the ‘water trigger’ in the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity (EPBC) Act to include shale gas development, as recommended by the Scientific Inquiry into Hydraulic Fracturing in the Northern Territory
  • Commit to federal investment in water to community needs and aspirations, including the identification and protection of environmental and cultural values, instead of facilitating large water-thirsty projects that put fragile systems at risk
  • Support drinking water quality and supply, including equitable access to safe and secure drinking water for all Territorians as called for by Land Councils

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